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douglas espinosa
Senior Travel Planner
After working for Costa Rica Expeditions for three years, Douglas left the company in 2000, due in part to the long commute to his hometown, Atenas. It was understandable that he sought a job closer to home - according to National Geographic, Atenas has "the best climate in the world." Still, a new work schedule and faster transportation lured Douglas back in Nov. 2004. Today Douglas manages upscale and special interest and affinity group vacations. He also plans natural history and nature photography trips.

Famous for his equanimity and sense of humor, Douglas enjoys spending time with his sons Jason and Steve playing soccer, surfing the Web or, his newest hobby, raising Brown quails for eggs. Douglas' birthday is Sep. 28, 1968.


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Mar 16, 2011.- Everyone went beyond their job requirements to make our trip enjoyable, informative, stress-free and generally delightful.
Michael (and Douglas), We had already started to draft this message before we received your e-mail asking for feedback, so we are not using the form you sent, but writing more free style. Let me know if there are any areas that we did not cover.

Costa Rica Expeditions did a fabulous job helping us with our first trip to Costa Rica. Douglas provided outstanding service helping us plan our trip. He was patient and helpful with our changes (and sometimes late information), and he did an excellent job of taking all our requests and fitting them into a ten-day itinerary that still left us feeling satisfied with the level of activity and happy with the time we had to relax.

Thank you and all the staff at Costa Rica Expeditions for making our visit to Costa Rica the BEST VACATION EVER! Everyone went beyond their job requirements to make our trip enjoyable, informative, stress-free and generally delightful. Without exception the guides, lodge staff and drivers were friendly, pleasant and helpful. However a few people really stand out. Their extra attention provided highlights in a wonderful experience.

On our drive from the Pacuare River to Cano Blanco we were most fortunate to have Max as our driver. We had anticipated that this would be an uneventful transfer drive, and had even discussed napping along the way after our strenuous day on the river. We spotted a few interesting birds out the window early in the drive and pointed them out to one another. Recognizing this interest, Max alerted us to other points of natural interest all along the way. He spotted caracaras, howler monkeys, a sloth, a jacana, purple galinule and a tree full of elephant beetles (that the young boys living nearby gleefully showed off to us). He showed us date palms and a wonderful fragrant plant used in perfume (unfortunately we do not remember the name). His enthusiasm, love of life and the country were infectious and turned an occasion for a nap into a highlight of the vacation. He spotted us a few days later outside the Monteverde Lodge and made sure we had a chance to view a golden-browed chlorophonia through a guide's telescope and later asked if perhaps we had lost a pair of glasses that had turned up in his van. Indeed we had, though were unsure when they had disappeared and were most grateful to him for going out of his way to return them. We would seek him out as a driver in the future.

The entire Pacuare River expedition was superb, and we were so happy that our last minute change in flights gave us the chance to stay at the lodge. Our guides, Alex and Antonio, were among the most friendly, helpful and engaging people that we met in a country full of wonderfully friendly people. They were skillful and capable white-water guides, but also terrific waiters, bartenders and 'hotel' staff as well as introducing us to some of the animals and plants of the rain forest.

While at Monteverde we were scheduled to have lunch out in the gardens. As the result of complications with a group that arrived right at meal time, this did not happen. We were barely aware of this omission, and greatly enjoyed our lunch in the dining area visiting with a white-faced cappuchin who spent some time staring in at our window. However, as a gesture to us, the staff laid out a romantic table for two on the terrace for dinner. We felt thoroughly pampered. Our server, Alex was a pure delight. He was responsible for setting up the wonderful space for us, lit by dozens of torches and candles. He was cheerful, pleasant and attentive without hovering. He also provided the perfect recommendation for wine to accompany our magnificent calamari steaks, even though he does not personally eat calamari. (We appreciated his candor as much as his recommendation). The manager and bartender also contributed to this wonderful occasion, but it was Alex who made it special for us.

Our trip to the Arenal hanging bridges was enhanced by our very knowledgeable and helpful guide, Indira. The breadth of her understanding of the local ecology was impressive, and her ability to communicate it with interest and enthusiasm stood out even among the many excellent guides on our trip. It was great to have a female guide, and we hope that Costa Rica Expeditions is in a position to encourage and support more women to pursue this profession.

Orlando, our driver from Arenal to San Jose, was also an outstanding guide. He spoke excellent English and alerted us to the park and art museum near our hotel. We were feeling that our afternoon in the city might prove to be a bit of a loss, only to find that the art museum contained a uniformly excellent collection of work in all the galleries, the sculpture garden and the special exhibits. We got so caught up in the artwork that we stayed a full half hour past closing time. We also really enjoyed our wander around in the park. We wish to thank Orlando for pointing out this opportunity to us.

We had been disappointed that the scheduled 'mid-afternoon' departure from Arenal shown on our itinerary ended up being at 10 a.m. This did not leave us time to visit the pool or hot spring at Arenal before our departure. Fortunately, finding the art museum (thanks to Orlando) made our unexpected time in San Jose simply delightful. We would like to learn more about the artists whose work is displayed in the museum, but have not had much luck with a quick search on-line.

The quality of all the accommodations was superb. The 'rustic elegance' standard was very much to our liking. It is difficult to pick one lodge from the rest. Pacuare Lodge was by far the closest to, and felt most like a part of, the rainforest. The view from the dining area and library across the river at the fireflies at night and blue morphos during the day was magical. It was like eating in the middle of the forest, surrounded by large old trees covered in epiphytes and full of toucans, tanagers and oropendolas. The candle-lit cabin in the evening was a memorable way to start the trip.

Tortuga Lodge was also quite magical. Coming in after dinner to a candle-lit room was a lovely treat, and the art-work around the lodge was stunning. We particularly enjoyed the wood carvings. The staff were attentive and helpful. We really enjoyed the set meals and appreciated the reasonable portions of each course so that we were able to enjoy them all. Angelo was our guide for the boat and kayak tours. He also had a keen eye and an excellent knowledge of the local wildlife. Nancy very much enjoyed her brief experience teaching English. The children were delightful!

Monteverde Lodge would have been a favorite even without the special dinner that we were served. The gardens were wonderful, and made the lodge feel very close to the forest, with monkeys at the windows and birds from our balcony. This gave it a natural, rustic feel that was nicely complemented by the comfortable spaces and the marvelous staff. We very much enjoyed our walk through the private sanctuary next door as well as our tour of the reserve. The Arenal Manoa was the one classic 'resort' hotel that we visited. It was a great opportunity to relax and unwind before returning home. We took advantage of the pools, hot and cold, a lovely massage and a chance to do a bit of nothing. We enjoyed an exceptional view of the volcano from our room (we were most fortunate to have a full clear day). However, compared to the other places that we stayed during our trip it felt less personal. This is on no way a criticism of the staff there who were also helpful and attentive, but of the nature of this type of resort. The lodges proclaiming 'rustic elegance' were more in keeping with our tastes.

The zip-line canopy tour that you set up for us was fun and provided a perspective on the forest that we would not otherwise have gotten, even from the hanging bridges. The guides there clearly had safety in mind as they trained us and took us out. They also had a good knowledge of natural history and taught us about the plants and trees we encountered.

We appreciated the safety warnings that we saw in the materials that your company provided. This made us aware of the lack of safety precautions on some of the other zip line tours, which was backed up by some of what we saw during our travels and heard about from other guests. Thank you for directing us to a reputable one. We certainly hope that had one of this high quality and safety not been available that you would have felt comfortable leaving this out of our itinerary or bringing concerns about them to our attention.

One recommendation we would make is to have better natural history libraries or other information about the local plants and animals available at Tortuga and Monteverde Lodges. Monteverde did have a modest natural history library, but we could not find any books on Costa Rica at Tortuga. We took the 25 pound weight limit on luggage seriously and only brought one Costa Rica bird guide. We would have liked the opportunity to read about the other wildlife and plants that we saw on our tours and around the lodges. The quality of information on the guided tours was superb, but with so much of interest around the lodges themselves this seems like an opportunity missed.

Thank you so much for helping us to fall in love with Costa Rica! I will send photos in another e-mail. Now, I have to go to bed to be ready for my middle school students tomorrow morning!

Best wishes, Nancy and Peter Stevick

Feb 10, 2011.- Since we enjoyed Costa Rica we decided to go back again(we never have gone the same place twice)

This is our second time using CRE.  Last year we used CRE for the first time.  We enjoyed your services-staying in our budget, planning the things we wanted to do, giving us free time, great accommodations, great guides, great drivers who are on time, and our own trip planner who answered my questions. Since we enjoyed Costa Rica we decided to go back again(we never have gone the same place twice). So I contacted Douglas, last years planner, and told him our dates and places and things we would like to do this year. Once again he planned a great trip for us. Since he already knew our likes,-birding, types of accommodations,etc. he was able to plan another great trip for us. CRE takes the worry out wondering how to get to each new place we visited.  Knowing that some of the roads to remote areas are dirt roads, often very narrow, and road signs aren't often found it's nice to have someone else do the driving.  We liked everything we did and met some great people-even several owners of the places we stayed at.  This year we did have some transfer drivers who did not speak English.  So the long drives were quite. One driver did try to tell us things-but it was hard to figure out what he was trying to tell us and resorted to hand signals.  We got stopped for an hour going up the mountain because of an accident and it would have been nice to talk to driver and he could talk about the country, etc.  But all in all this was very minor and didn't take anything away from our great experiences.  We have told our friends about CRE.  You taking the worries out
Mike and Barb Carey
January 2011


Feb 10, 2011.- It brought me to tears. Happy ones!

Dear Douglas,
We returned home late Thursday night from San Jose. I wanted to write you and express my deep gratitude to you and your company for providing the best customer service in your industry. You are over the top in our opinion and you exceeded our every expectation. I can't thank you enough for assisting me with the plans and preparations needed for this trip with our friends. Everyone appreciated your responsiveness and attention to the details.
Luis Torres hasn't changed a bit in eight years. His enthusiasm for the flora and fauna of his homeland is beyond reproach. And his kindness and consideration for each of us has touched our hearts. After eight years of eco tours, he still is number one in our opinion. Please take good care of him. He is a tremendous asset to Costa Rica Expeditions.
We felt Hotel Grano de Oro was a wonderful historical start to our vacation. It was so beautiful. The service and food was excellent. The rooms had very nice accommodations.
Shala at Tortuga Lodge was there to give assistance with anything we might need. She and her staff gave Jerry, my husband, the best birthday gift of his life! A torch lit dinner out on the point of the grounds of the lodge. It was fabulous and the dinner was excellent! It brought me to tears. Happy ones! Thank you for arranging all of that. Please convey my thanks to all of them again. The lodge has been much improved since our last visit. This was nice. The food and service was excellent. The accommodations were comfortable, clean and well cared for. The gardens were a wildlife sanctuary. And the boat drivers, including Fernando, had keen eyes and made us feel safe.
La Leona Lodge Tent Camp at Corcovado was an amazing and beautiful place. It is a special place that many don't know about or will ever experience. The staff were kind and caring. They helped us when my husband's camera equipment had fallen into water. They immediately placed in a dry box and kept it there for as long as we needed. Again, I convey my thanks to them for their kindness. The camp was very clean. I enjoyed the tents and loved having the private bath off the back of the tents. That was a huge plus for all of us. We were camping but still had our privacy.
Monteverde was as beautiful and serene as I remembered. The lodge was beautiful and very well kept. The staff was kind and attentive to our needs. I was sick for one day and they made sure I had a bland diet so that I could recover quickly. Jeffery, our waiter, was excellent. He was prompt, polite and responsive to our needs. We loved the torch lit dinner and the Costa Rican barbeque. Again, we were made to feel very special, which in turn, made the whole trip experience so very special. We loved the trip to Santa Elena Reserve. It was so beautiful! Please keep that a standard for this area. And the journey to and from Monteverde is an opportunity to see so many species of birds - it's an adventure in itself.
Our driver, Alex, had a keen eye for wildlife. We loved having him there. He was always watching out for our safety, whether it was when he was driving or when he was watching the van while we were out on an adventure. We always had water and drinks and whatever we asked for. He was always polite and kind. He is a plus to the company.
The inner country flights were perfect as well. They were prompt and so professional. Our transfer guide to the airport, Jonathan, was very kind and informative. A nice way to end the trip.
Our only thoughts on improvements would be the accommodations at Manual Antonio. We know Costa Rica Expeditions feels small lodges give the customer the best taste of what your country has to offer and we agree with that philosophy. We felt hotel Arenas del Mar was too spread out and inconvenient for gathering on our own as a group. The suites were gorgeous, but two of our suites had several problems, including air conditioning issues and hot water issues. They did do their best to resolve the problems. We felt having to call for a golf cart to go anywhere was inconvenient. The bar provided very slow service and they ran out of Merlot after the first night. The food was acceptable but your lodges provided much better food. I guess what I am trying to say is that I feel a smaller, quainter lodge similar to Tortuga Lodge and Monteverde Lodge would be a nice option for those who enjoy that type of atmosphere vs. the high end resort.
I thank you and everyone else at Costa Rica Expeditions for giving each and every one of us a trip of a lifetime and allowing us to see what a wonderful place Costa Rica is. You are lucky to live in such a place. The stress of my normal life faded away within one day of being there. My memories will bring a smile to my face for many years to come. I will continue to recommend you and your company to everyone I know. I am so glad I dealt with Costa Rica Expeditions directly instead of going through a US travel company. You are the best!
And lastly, my thanks to Michael Kaye for his pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit that created such an amazing ecotourism company. And to all of you for efforts to make each and every one of us feel special. Great customer service goes far! I have submitted my survey to Travel and Leisure Magazine hoping Costa Rica Expeditions will be awarded with one of the "World's Best Awards" in the "Tour Operators/Safari Outfitters"  Category. You certainly deserve in my book - eight years ago and today as well. Keep doing what you are doing. Don't Change!
Best Wishes to Everyone at Costa Rica Expeditions! I will miss communicating with all of you.
Leisa Cudworth
January 2011

Our Response

Dear Leisa, Douglas sent me a copy of your email to him. Thank you for taking the time to write such a generous account of your trip. Over the years I have read many letters with feedback and I can honestly say that yours is one of the most incredible ones Ive ever read. Of the many things that you wrote the one I liked most was, She and her staff gave Jerry, my husband, the best birthday gift of his life! A torch lit dinner out on the point of the grounds of the lodge. It was fabulous and the dinner was excellent! It brought me to tears. Happy ones! I also liked: The stress of my normal life faded away within one day of being there. My memories will bring a smile to my face for many years to come. I see your point about Arenas del Mar. Im glad to hear that they were prompt and proactive about correcting the maintenance issues in your rooms. We too would like to be able to offer a smaller hotel. Our problem has been to find one that puts it al

Jan 13, 2011.- Although we had lots of rain in Tortuguero, we got to see many beautiful birds and plants, and a sloth that camped out in a tree just outside our room.
Hola Douglas,

Just checking in to let you know we had a wonderful visit to Costa Rica. Thank you so much for setting everything up for us.

We took your advice and had dinner in San Jose at Hotel Grano de Oro, which was spectacular. Thank you for the recommendation.

Although we had lots of rain in Tortuguero, we got to see many beautiful birds and plants, and a sloth that camped out in a tree just outside our room.

Corcovado was generally everyone's favorite place. Watching scarlet macaws sitting in the trees on the beach was a wonderful, memorable experience.

Punta Islita was very relaxing, and a very nice finish to the trip.

We will be sure to recommend CRE to all our friends, and hopefully we'll get the chance to visit your beautiful country again soon.

Many thanks,
December 2010

Jan 14, 2008.- We definitely will use Costa Rica Expeditions again.
Hi Michael: We had good times in Arenal; unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. I just want to let you know, Douglas Espinosa is wonderful to work with. Our tour guy, Alex Lopez, is very informative and helpful; so is our driver. We definitely will use Costa Rica Expeditions again for any travel in Costa Rica or Nicaragua.
-Thu Alexander

Feb 16, 2007.- Adventurous hiking, 70 sightings of different critters, excellent food, transportation, lodging and great companionship.
We had the extraordinary pleasure of using Costa Rica Expeditions on our recent visit earlier this month. Douglas Espinosa advised us and organized our trip. Our driver/guide was Mauricio and our naturalist guide was Federico Alban. Mauricio is an incredible driver. He negotiated the roads in a safe manner, kept our mini-van immaculate and comfortable and always had our best interests at heart. Federico took us on amazing hikes, is extremely knowledgeable regarding flora and fauna and made our experience one we will never forget. Both gentlemen are a credit to your organization. They are professional, informed, dependable, personable, and highly skilled in their respective roles.
We enjoyed every aspect of our three-night tour of Monteverde and Arenal. We had adventurous hiking, 70 sightings of different "critters", excellent food, transportation, lodging and especially great companionship with Mauricio and Federico. You obviously run a fine organization and Federico and Mauricio represent you extremely well. Thank you.
One constructive criticism would be minor but important enough to mention. At your Monteverde Lodge, the policy is to charge your guests for soft drinks and coffee at meals. It seemed out of character with the first class treatment we received portal to portal on our vacation. At the Lost Iguana Lodge and at every other meal, we were spared the minor annoyance of having to pay for soft drinks. Please don't let this detail blur our message of total satisfaction with Costa Rica Expeditions. We hope to use your services again in the near future and have already recommended your firm to our friends and family.
Thank you again for providing the resources that made our Costa Rican adventure so enjoyable and memorable. Please pass along our warmest regards and gratitude to Mauricio and Federico.
-Pat and Don Auriemma

Apr 5, 2006.- We enjoyed every interaction we had with Costa Rica Expeditions.
Our trip was fantastic, thanks in large part to your company. We enjoyed every interaction we had with Costa Rica Expeditions, from travel planners to guides to drivers. We will certainly call you for our next trip to Costa Rica and have already recommended both the country and your company to friends.

I would like to commend three people in particular. Douglas helped us plan a great trip and further assisted us with plans while we were in Costa Rica; he is smart, responsive and nice. Jose was our wonderful white water rafting guide; he made the day educational, exciting and fun. And Alejandro escorted us through San Jose on our last day, and we had a wonderful time with him.
-David Fein


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